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Showing posts from November, 2008

I Am Copy

Movie title: I Am Legend (2007)
Grade: D+ (1 ½ star)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: Dr. Robert Neville searches for a cure in a world destroyed by disease.
Spoilers ahead: Yes

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I Am Legend is a slow and unspectacular rehashing of zombie apocalypse science fiction. Totally lacking in credibility or appeal, it adds nothing new to the now massive (and still growing) video library of zombie apocalypse films and books. This one is based on Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend.” It is the third movie based on the book.

With the help of good camera work, fancy (but still insufficient) special effects, and a big budget, it feels expensive, which is to say, this was not a flippant project. A lot of thought and production power went into it. But that didn't keep the writers from making some big mistakes.

Incredibly huge, whopping mistake #1) Poisoned humans acquire great strength: We are suspending the laws of reality a bit in the premise of I Am Legend, where a virus not only turns living, healthy individ…

Changeling

Movie title: Changeling (2008)
Grade:B- (3 stars)
Rated: R
Director: Clint Eastwood
Producers: Clint Eastwood, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, (Exec.) Geyer Kosinski, Robert Lorenz, (Exec.) Tim Moore, (Exec.) James Whitaker
Starring: Angelina Jolie “Christine Collins,” Jeffrey Donovan “J.J. Jones,” Gattlin Griffith “Walter Collins,” Michelle Martin “Sandy,” Jason Butler Harner “Gordon Northcott,” Michael Kelly “Detective Lester Ybarra,” Frank Wood “Ben Harris,” John Malkovich “Rev. Gustav Briegleb,” Colm Feore “Chief James E. Davis,” Devon Conti “Arthur Hutchins”
Genre: Drama/Thriller/Mystery
Summation: A mother's prayer for her kidnapped son to return home is answered, though it doesn't take long for her to suspect the boy who comes back is not hers.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Intense

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With both hands full of a big bucket of buttery popcorn and a large Dr. Pepper, I trucked into the theatre. The movie started just as I sat down. “Based on a true story,” the opening credits said. I had n…

30 days of Night

Movie title: 30 Days of Night (2007)
Grade:B- (3 stars)
Rated: R
Director: David Slade
Producers: Ted Adams, (Exec.) Joseph Drake, (Exec.) Aubrey Henderson, (Exec.) Nathan Kahane, Sam Raimi, (Exec.) Mike Richardson, Chloe Smith
Starring: Josh Hartnett “Sheriff Eben Oleson,” Melissa George “Stella Oleson,” Danny Huston “Marlow,” Ben Foster “The Stranger,” Mark Boone Junior “Beau Brower,” Mark Rendall “Jake Oleson,” Amber Sainsbury “Denise,” Manu Bennett “Deputy Billy Kitka”
Genre: Horror
Summation: Vampires migrate to northern Alaska to feast on humans during the dark winter months.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Gory

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All may seem well in the icebox of America’s northernmost city (Barrow, Alaska), but this winter is not going to be like any other. Once the annual thirty days of polar darkness sets in, vampires take the opportunity to feast on trapped and helpless inhabitants. That’s the running theme in this Halloween horror 30 Days of Night directed by David Slade.

If you want horror, you’ve g…

Superbad is Supergood!

Movie title: Superbad (2007)
Grade:A- (4 stars)
Rated: R
Director: Greg Mattola
Producers: Judd Apatow, (Exec.) Evan Goldberg, Shauna Robertson, (Exec.) Seth Rogen, Dara Weintraub
Starring: Jonah Hill “Seth,” Michael Cera “Evan,” Christopher Mintz-Plasse “Fogell,” Bill Hader “Officer Slater,” Seth Rogen “Officer Michaels,” Martha MacIsaac “Becca,” Emma Stone “Jules,” Aviva “Nicola”
Genre: Comedy
Summation: Two co-dependent high school seniors (Hill and Cera) are forced to deal with separation anxiety after their plan to stage a booze-soaked party goes awry.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Crass

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I don’t know why, but so many movies really blow it when it comes to exchanges between young people. I don’t know what it is with Hollywood directors. It may not be solely their faults though. Perhaps it’s the fault of all adults in that as we get older, we loose the ability to get in touch with and relate to kids like we once were. This shortcoming always shows through in the dialogue of a film where k…

Burn After Reading

Movie title: Burn After Reading (2008)
Grade:B- (3 stars)
Rated: R
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Producers: Tim Bevan, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, David Diliberto, Eric Fellner, (Exec.) Robert Graf
Starring: George Clooney “Harry Pfarrer,” Frances McDormand “Linda Litzke,” John Malkovich “Osbourne Cox,” Tilda Swinton “Katie Cox,” Brad Pitt “Chad Feldheimer,” Richard Jenkins “Ted Treffon,” Elizabeth Marvel “Sandy Pfarrer,” David Rasche “CIA Officer,” J.K. Simmons “CIA Superior.”
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Action/Thriller
Summation: A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempt to sell it for profit.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Disjointed

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In high school, I had a 94 average in biology class. I was a GT student in English. But in most subjects, I never tried, and if I did, I tried for a while and did well, but soon gave up. Since that time, I’ve come across students who were amazingly smart and academically inclined, but who, like me, …

Blindness

Movie title: Blindness (2008)
Grade:B- (3 stars)
Rated: R
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Producers: Niv Fichman, Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Sonoko Sakai, Bel Berlinck, Sari Friedland, (Exec.) Gail Egan, (Exec.) Simon Channing Williams
Starring: Julianne Moore “The Doctor’s Wife,” Mark Ruffalo “The Doctor,” Alice Braga “The Woman with Dark Glasses,” Danny Glover “The Man with the Black Eye Patch,” Gael Garcia Bernal “Bartender/King of Ward Three”
Genre: Horror/Thriller/Drama
Summation: A mysterious illness robs the world of sight leaving humankind struggling to survive.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Disturbing

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The idea of suddenly going blind has always been horrifying to me. To live in a world without sight would be debilitating. For those of us who can see, suddenly not having sight would change the world in a most disastrous way. Just to think about suddenly going blind is scary, scarier than any monster movie I’ve ever seen. The reason being, blindness is a real thing and it could conceivably h…

Lakeview Terrace

Movie title: Lakeview Terrace (2008)
Grade:D- (1 star)
Rated: PG-13
Director: Neil LaBute
Producers: James Lassiter, Will Smith, Orin Woinsky, (Exec.) John Cameron, (Exec.) Jeffrey Graup, (Exec.) David Loughery, (Exec.) Joe Pichirallo
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson “Able Turner,” Patrick Wilson “Chris Mattson,” Kerry Washington “Lisa Mattson,” Ron Glass “Harold Perreau,” Justin Chambers “Donnie Eaton,” Jay Hernandez “Javier Villareal,” Regine Nehy “Celia Turner,” Jaishon Fisher “Marcus Turner”
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Summation: An LAPD officer will stop at nothing to force out an interracial couple who moved in next door.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Overdone

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Seeing the previews for this one had me hooked. The plot was so enticing. I mean, who can’t relate to a movie about corrupt law enforcement? The corruption and downfall of those in power is a favorite theme for sure, and the idea behind the story is just awesome. It had all the ingredients to be a good movie. And the intriguing thought is: …

The Strangers

Movie title: The Strangers (2008)
Grade:C- (2 stars)
Rated: R
Director: Bryan Bertino
Producers: Thomas J. Busch, Doug Davison, (Exec.) Joseph Drake, (Exec.) Marc D. Evans, Nathan Kahane, (Exec.) Kelli Konop, Roy Lee, (Exec.) Trevor Macy, (Exec.) Sonny Mallhi
Starring: Scott Speedman “James Hoyt,” Liv Tyler “Kristen McKay,” Gemma Ward “Dollface,” Kip Weeks “Man in the Mask,” Laura Margolis “Pin-Up Girl,” Glenn Howerton “Mike”
Genre: Thriller/Horror/Mystery
Summation: A couple is attacked by mysterious assailants in their family’s summer home.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Desperate

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I have a friend who goes into hysterics when, at the right moment, I repeat a certain phrase from her favorite television show The Chappelle’s Show. But every time I try to make her laugh by deliberately repeating it, she tells me that it doesn’t come out right. I can’t do it on command, she says. It has to be spontaneous and natural-sounding when said in the right moment or it loses its affect.

Speaking of losing …

Babylon A.D.

Movie title: Babylon A.D. (2008)
Grade:F (0 stars) Worst of 2008!
Rated: PG-13
Directors: Mathieu Kassovitz
Producers: Mathieu Kassovitz, Alain Goldman, Benoît Jaubert (Exec.), Selwyn Roberts
Starring: Vin Diesel “Toorop,” Michelle Yeoh “Sister Rebeka,” Mélanie Thierry “Aurora,” Gérard Depardieu “Gorsky,” Charlotte Rampling “High Priestess,” Mark Strong “Finn,” Lambert Wilson “Dr. Darquandier”
Genre: Scifi/Action
Summation: A mercenary is assigned to deliver a woman to America who is being sought by a powerful and corrupt religious cult.
Spoilers ahead: Yes
In a word: Wanting

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What does the title “Babylon A.D.” make you think about? Nebuchadnasser? Bible times? How about a rebirthing of a society in great corruption and decadence? Maybe wonders of the ancient world in modern post-apocalyptic times, perhaps? Well, whatever it reminds you of, your mental conception is likely too lofty for the likes of this failure of a film. But like great Babylon of old, this film is truly dead!

I’m not tryi…

Quantum of Suckiness

Movie title: Quantum of Solace (2008)
Grade:D+ (1 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13
Director: Marc Forster
Producers: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
Starring: Daniel Craig “James Bond,” Olga Kurylenko “Camille,” Mathieu Amalric “Dominic Greene,” Judi French “M,” Jeffrey Wright “Felix Leiter,” Gemma Arterton “Agent Fields”
Genre: Action/Thriller
Summation: Bond pursues a mysterious organization of organized crime in South America.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Disappointing

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I’ve always thought Daniel Craig is a good Bond. In fact, he makes a great Bond, giving Sean Connery a run for his money on more than a few levels. Craig gives Bond an athletic and modern, even a realistically “pretty boy” adjustment for a new day and age. He’s refined, he’s classy, he’s sharp, he’s eloquent and resolute, just enough so to compete with (and in some ways beat) old Connery’s Bond legacy. He also happens to be close enough in appearance to a Chip n’ Dales dancer to take the shaken-not-stirred-preferring, finessing l…

Andrew Schuth Fails

Movie title: Sea of Fear (2006)
Grade:F (0 stars) Worst of 2006!
Rated: PG-13
Summation: Trapped on a boat at sea, a group of divers become the target of a relentless serial killer.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Watching Sea of Fear was quite a memorable experience. I didn’t feel any fear, but I sure did drown in a sea of submerging boredom, bad acting, and the cruddiest choreography I’ve seen to date. Pardon me while I dig deep for the right words to describe just how much of a stinker this bumbling abomination was.

But Sea of Fear is a top contender—a top contender in my 25 all-time worst movie list. It was unequivocally the most horrible flick of 2006, and if that is not enough, it now has the added honor of being equaled in awfulness by only 24 other films in existence.

The story is about a group of teenagers who head out to sea for a diving project, but little do they know, a killer is on the boat with them. Trapped at sea, one by one they are picked off and killed. Sound like an interesting st…

Nights in Rodanthe

Movie title: Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
Grade:D- (1 star)
Rated: PG-13
Director: George C. Wolfe
Producers: Denise Di Novi, Doug Claybourne, Alison Greenspan, (Exec.) Dana Goldberg, (Exec.) Bruce Berman
Starring: Richard Gere “Dr. Paul Flanner,” Diane Lane “Adrienne,” Scott Glenn “Robert Torrelson,” Christopher Meloni “Jack,” Viola David “Jean,” James Franco "Mark Flanner")
Genre: Romance/Drama
Summation: A woman in a troubled marriage meets a man while looking after an Inn for a friend and a romance begins.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Sappy

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There are those times when a critic must actually hunt for positive things to say about the subject of a review. It happens more often than you might think. I honestly didn’t expect Nights in Rodanthe, starring Richard Gere (Paul) and Diane Lane (Adrienne), to fall into that category.

I’m sorry to have to report that there was but one scene in the whole substandard film with any heart-tugging feel at all. Oh, there are plenty (and long) shots o…

Tropic Thunder

Movie title: Tropic Thunder (2008)
Grade:B+ (3 ½ stars) (Recommended!)
Rated: R
Directors: Ben Stiller
Producers: (Exec.) Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Stuart Cornfeld, Eric McLeod, Matt Eppedio
Starring: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Sandusky, Justin Theroux, Nick Nolte, Brandon Jackson, Steve Coogan, Danny McBride, Bill Hader
Genre: Comedy
Summation: A group of actors are thrown by a production company into a simulated war zone for the purpose of bringing out in them genuine emotions, but things get crazy when the actors find themselves in a real war zone.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Ingenious

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The desire for good comedy is like sexual fetishes—everyone has their own kind of thing that lights their fires! But give it enough time and ruts form when certain groups of people get used to certain kinds of comedy and are not open to accepting anything new when it comes along. Getting viewers out of these ruts is sometimes hard to…

Get Smart

Movie title: Get Smart (2008)
Grade:C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13
Directors: Peter Segal
Producers: (Exec.) Bruce Berman, (Exec.) Steve Carell, Michael Ewing, Alex Gartner, Alan Glazer, (Exec.) Dana Goldberg, Andrew Lazar, (Exec.) Jimmy Miller, (Exec.) Brent O'Connor,
Charles Roven, (Exec.) Peter Segal
Starring: Steve Carell “Maxwell Smart,” Anne Hathaway “Agent 99,” Dwayne Johnson “Agent 23,” Alan Arkin “The Chief,” Terence Stamp “Siegfried,” Terry Crews “Agent 91,” David Koechner “Larabee,” James Caan “The President,” Bill Murray “Agent 13,” Patrick Warburton “Hymie,” Masi Oka “Bruce,” Nate Torrence “Lloyd,” Ken Davitian “Shtarker”
Genre: Comedy/Action
Summation: Maxwell Smart (Agent 86 for CONTROL) battles the evil forces of KAOS with the more-competent (and beautiful) Agent 99 at his side.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: cute

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The Forty Year Old Virgin’s Steve Carell (Maxwell Smart) is back, this time in a mildly funny but fairly entertaining secret agent parody, Get Smart. With co-star Dw…

Appaloosa

Movie title: Appaloosa (2008)
Grade:B+ (3 ½ stars) (Recommended!)
Rated: R
Directors: Ed Harris
Producers: Ed Harris, Michael London (Exec.), Cotty Chubb (Exec.), Kathryn Himoff
Starring: Ed Harris “Virgil Cole,” Viggo Mortensen “Everitt Hitch,” Renee Zelweger “Allison French,” Jeremy Irons “Randall Bragg,” Timothy Spall “Phil Olson,” Lance Henriksen “Ring Shelton,” Tom Bauer “Abner Raines,” James Gammon “Earl May,” Ariadna Gil “Katie,” Gabriel Marantz “Joe Whittfield”
Genre: Drama/Western/Action
Summation: Two lawmen are employed by a town to keep the peace amidst an invasion of outlaws and a woman threatens to come between them.
Spoilers ahead: No
In a word: Authentic

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If you’re like me, your mind automatically runs to Clint Eastwood when you think of classic westerns. And when you see new western movies, you naturally compare them to older big-name movies, like Unforgiven (1992) and before that A Fist Full of Dollars (1964). But if you’re not like me, and you don’t happen to associate the …

Mirrors: A Time to Reflect

Movie title: Mirrors (2008)
Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: R
Directors: Alexandre Aja
Producers: Gregory Levasseur, Alexandra Milchan, Marc Sternberg, Arnon Milchan (Exec.), Kiefer Sutherland (Exec.), Marc S. Fischer (Exec.)
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland “Ben Carson,” Paula Patton “Amy Carson,” Amy Smart “Angela Carson”
Genre: Horror
Summation: Cop-turned-security guard Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) discovers that the mirrors in a closed-down department store mall that he is guarding are possessed of evil spirits and threaten him and his family.
Spoilers ahead: No

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My hat goes off to horror moviemakers. It’s a tough job. If you do it right, you make something that is memorably scary, that is unique, and that is in some sense logically plausible, causing the viewer to get the chills and say: “Wow! What if that happened to me?” You may be dealing with the supernatural, but the flow and details of the story still have to make sense. And think about it…how often does good, original horror movie ma…

How does the rating system work?

A+ (4 stars) = Recommended. Immaculate, excellent, a must-see.
Movies of this caliber are rare, being masterfully done and as close as is possible to "flawless."



A- = Recommended.
A great, well-done movie that you should definitely see. Maybe it wasn't genre-redefining material. Maybe it wasn't oscar-winning, but it was superb nonetheless.



B+ (3 1/2 stars) = Recommended.
Aside from a few flaws, it's pretty good and worth seeing.



B- (3 stars) = Decent.
Maybe it'll float your boat and maybe it won't. Just depends on your taste.



C+ (2 1/2 stars) = Decent.
Average with a few good attributes. You won't hate it, but don't expect it to be particularly memorable.



C- (2 stars) = Hopelessly average.
No real redeeming qualities about it. An almost - if not complete - waste of time.



D+ (1 1/2 stars) = Viewer beware!
Pretty bad and certainly less than average. Will leave a bad taste in your mouth when you leave the theatre.



D- (1 star) = Viewer beware!
Pretty bad and then s…